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Labour has confirmed it is likely to support a rebel Conservative amendment obliging ministers to seek parliamentary approval for new lockdown restrictions, setting up the government for a possible Commons defeat next week.
Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary, said Labour’s first preference would be for its own amendment to the Coronavirus Act to be picked by the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, on Wednesday, and put to a vote.
But the party could support the amendment tabled by leading Tory backbencher Graham Brady. Stevens said: “If it’s selected, then I think the likelihood is that we would back it, but we would like to see our amendment debated and voted on. So let’s see which one the Speaker goes for.”
With 46 Conservatives having signed up to the amendment by Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, and if other opposition parties joined Labour in backing the amendment, the government would lose.
Speaking later on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, said his party would “almost certainly” back the amendment.
The government has said MPs will get a say on coronavirus rules, but only after they are in force, arguing it needs the ability to act quickly.
MPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday for another six-month renewal of the Coronavirus Act, which gives ministers sweeping powers to impose restrictions on people’s movements and other freedoms to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The amendment would oblige ministers to seek a vote in parliament before changes were made. The process is complicated by debate over whether the act can be amended when it is being renewed, and then if an amendment under these terms would have legal force.
Stevens told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that it believed the Labour amendment was a better option: “We have some sympathy with the amendment that Graham Brady has tabled, but we want to see something that our amendment sets out, which is about more transparency, about publishing the data behind decisions, and a clear plan.”
Speaking earlier on the same show, Steve Baker, a key backer of the Brady plan, and a leading Tory sceptic of ever-greater lockdown restrictions, said there were “plenty of MPs who would vote for this amendment if it is selected – and we think it will be selected”.
“Members of parliament are feeling increasingly helpless as their constituents complain about real impacts on their lives, their jobs, their prosperity, indeed their health, which come from the side-effects of Covid measures,” Baker said.
“I’m saying MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the government’s done.”
Baker said the range of regulations on social distancing and other Covid measures was now too long and complex to be fully understood: “So, we are in an environment where you really can’t know whether you’re a criminal or not with this much law coming to force and changing so fast and that is why I’ve said this is not a fit environment for free people.”
More generally, Baker said, freedom “dies like this, with government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand”.
Speaker after Baker on the Ridge show, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said these worries were “slightly overblown”, and that MPs did get a say, albeit retrospectively.
He said: “I think it’s important in a crisis like where things are moving very rapidly, that the government has the power to move quickly and that’s the power that the government was given through the initial legislation earlier this year.
“But it is then important that MPs hold us to account and vote on that and that is exactly what’s happening here.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Labour likely to back Tory rebels over power to impose new Covid measures | World news